Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Marvel Superhero Mashers Review and Giveaway

Ever wonder what it would be like to combine two superheroes together? Your action figures would be unstoppable if they had the super strength of Hulk and the technology of Iron Man? Well, Hasbro has answered your prayers with their new line of Marvel Super Hero Mashers.

The figures come in two different varieties, the MARVEL SUPER HEROES Action Figure Assortment which includes such characters as Doctor Doom, Hawkeye, Thor, Captain America, and Spiderman (Retail price $9.99) and the MARVEL SUPER HEROES Battle Upgrade Action Figure Assortment which has Hulk, Iron Patriot, Iron Man, and Wolverine. (Retail price $14.99)

Basically, the figures has interchangeable parts where you can switch out heads, arms, legs, bodies, and weapons to create your own Mash Up.

When I first saw these things I immediately thought of this cover from a comic book I collected in the 1990s. Comic books often did crossovers where characters from other worlds would battle or combine forces with each other but this book was unique in that two characters had melded into one! In this case, Spiderman and Hulk's bodies had fused to create SPIDER HULK!

My kids and I were stuck inside again due to another round brought to you by the Polar Vortex when we decided to give these toys a try. They instantly gravitated to them and with all the interchangeable parts, the possibilities were endless. Even my three year old, who loves superheroes was entranced.

We created our own MashUps and Bulky Hulky and Spider Smash were born.

 Ages for this toy are listed at 4 years & up because of the small parts. While a four year old could play with it, even my eight year old son and I sometimes had trouble snapping the parts onto the pegs at the joints. The especially hard part was putting a tiny Spiderman head on a giant Hulk body.

The parts don't fall off during play and the plastic is sturdy enough for rough play. Sometimes the parts would pop off which added another element to the play with all these spare body parts laying around.

 Want to win your own MARVEL SUPER HERO MASHERS?

Giveaway open to U.S. Residents ONLY. Must be 18 years or older to enter. 

See the Rafflecopter below!


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FTC Disclaimer: I received one MARVEL SUPER HERO MASHERS Action Figure Assortment and one MARVEL SUPER HERO MASHERS Battle Upgrade Action Figure Assortment in exchange for the review of this product. All opinions are my own and if you don't like it, DADNCHARGE SMASH!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bye Bye Baby

Her blue eyes twinkle in the sunlight and a sly smile forms at the corners of her mouth. Her shirt, may be close to being a size too small, rides up as she tries to straighten her back against the door frame. Her chestnut brown hair falls in little ringlets at her shoulders as she tries to squeeze a few more centimeters out of the measurement.

She raises her little feet off the ground while I gently remind her to keep them flat. "How much I grow?" she asks me desperate for me to show her how big she has become but I'm just not willing.
She is our last child and she is growing too fast.

I've been a late adopter of many things with her. Hesitant to transition from breast milk to regular milk,  slow to move on from bottles to sippy cups no matter how much I hated cleaning the bazillion parts they had. Before I knew it, she was in a real bed and the crib we have had since our first child was off to another family who was expecting.

I was sad to see the binky go and frankly, though I know she should be potty trained by now at three, I am still hanging on to her being our baby by allowing her to wear diapers. I am an enabler. It is because I am having a hard time letting my baby grow up.

I love seeing her becoming who she will be. Between our three children each has been so different and distinct in their likes and dislikes that only their striking blue eyes seem to connect them. I know in my heart that they can't stay puppies forever and that I now have to live vicariously through others who still have babies.

While I tease my wife about the kids growing up I secretly wish they wouldn't. My wife often claims "They will always be my babies" and like most things, she is right. You never quite ever give up that connection with them from the first moment they opened their eyes and looked at you or that first time you heard your wife said "Say hi to your daddy".

My daughter did everything early, mostly as a product of being the third child who didn't want to miss out on what her older brother and sister were doing. She was walking at nine months and gave up all naps around eighteen months. She seems like she is in a hurry.

You can't see it when they are right in front of you. It is not until you go away for four days without seeing them that you realize how much can change in such a short time.

If this picture is any indication of what her teenage years are going to be like I fear that they are just around the corner. She may only be three but she is going on thirteen already, at least that is what it feels like.

I just want it to SLOW DOWN.

Trust me, it feels like you blink and those hours of fretting about them not sleeping, cursing whether they going to ditch this godforsaken phase, and wondering if you are ever going to have sex with your wife again vanishes.

Before you know it, you are worried if they will ever reach the next benchmark you read about in that book with your wife way back when. It's those small moments that grab you and and you start to take notice.

It is when they start to amaze you with their first smiles, though most of them are usually just because of gas, but you'll take it anyway. You'll watch them laugh for the first time or see them pull up on the couch. Next thing you know they are doing the Frankenstein walk towards you and you wonder where the time went. Everyone says "It goes by fast" and everyone is right.

You honestly never see it coming until it has already passed you by. What I hold on to is that I can replay these moments in time like they were yesterday. I often look back at the tomes of stills and reels of moments I wouldn't let get by me, to remember how it was though I don't think I can truly ever forget.

Of course I relent, knowing that she is growing and I need to support the excitement in that. Moving from baby status to big girl is a colossal leap in the life of a toddler.

"You grew a whole centimeter!" I say in a ridiculously loud voice hoping that my animated face accurately expresses my excitement.

"I'm a big girl now!" she laughs, jumping up and down. She can hardly contain herself as she embraces me and it hits me. That is exactly what I need to do too.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Losing a Sibling

Having kids is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me, but I didn’t realize that it meant I was going to lose my brother in the process. Oh, he is very much alive, however, there is nothing between us anymore. I lost my brother a long time ago.
I expected that, when my wife and I had kids, we would lose touch with our friends that weren’t into kids—the hardcore partiers, the couples that could barely keep a plant alive let alone a person. I never imagined it would be my own brother who would disappear. But, as soon as my son was born, my older brother slowly vanished from our lives and, try as I might, he just seemed to move further and further away. Family can be your towering strength in the hardest of times when you are close, but they can also be your greatest weakness when you aren’t.
My older brother is ten years older than me. He was always doing things that I couldn’t do. “You’re just not old enough to play this” or “You are just not old enough to go here,” he would say. When he would let me do something with him, like running bases, I thought it was the greatest thing to be hanging out with the older guys.
My family used to live in a suburb of Chicago. My older brother lived a town over from where my wife and I bought our first house together. However, despite our geographical closeness, my brother and I inexplicably drifted further apart. I only noticed this change once we started our own family.
Suddenly, our brotherhood didn’t seem to mean that much to him. His wife would cut our kids’ hair, but even that limited interaction felt forced. The small talk was curt and uncomfortable. They never wanted to come over to our house. They never offered to watch the kids. They didn’t participate in family functions. They showed absolutely no interest in my burgeoning family.
I wasn’t raised that way at all. When I was young, in the summers, we would get together and swim at my Aunt and Uncle’s house. We had barbeques and the cousins all played in the backyard. Christmas was a special time for our family and we all celebrated it together. My dad has three brothers and their relationships were important. We had cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all stay at our house every year. It was a Griswold kind of Christmas. My mom even lovingly referred to my dad as Sparky.
Family would come in from Virginia, Wisconsin, and Arkansas to be together for the holidays. We gave up rooms to our grandparents and bunked up together to make everyone fit. Every year, we would line up all the cousins on my mom’s staircase to take a photo. As we grew older, it became harder to stay on those stairs but we always managed it—we made the effort to be close.
But, after my brother had his children and I had my own, it became apparent that those regular family functions wouldn’t include him or his family and he distanced himself from the rest of us. My parents don’t know why he is this way. My other brothers don’t get it either. He’s the sort of guy that likes old school communication. He’s not on Facebook, he doesn’t respond to emails. Call him on the phone and he may not answer especially if he knows who it is. (As you can imagine, I just love leaving a message on an answering machine for a person I don’t really know any more.)
His three daughters are beautiful and talented young women but I don’t know them at all. I used to be friends with my nieces on Facebook but even that became strained when their values clashed with mine. I guess trying to be their friend was the last shred that I was hanging onto—hoping that we could one day develop a normal niece-and-uncle relationship. My brother apparently never stressed to them that knowing their uncle was important. (Don’t even get me started on how much my brother touts himself as a Christian, but, in reality, treats his own family like strangers.)
And, when we finally moved away from Illinois, I had to accept the fact that, for all intents and purposes, my family ceased to exist to his family.
We still maintain to our kids that family is important. When my kids were little, my wife made something we call a family book. It’s a photo album of all the people who are in our family and we’ve been looking at their ageless faces for five years now. Thanks to the book, my kids know my brother’s family by faces and names, but don’t really get who they are. After all, they haven’t made an effort to know us since 2008 and they only hear how we are doing through my parents, who now act like the moderators of a familial war where everyone knows that neither side is ever going to concede.
I tried to make an effort to stay connected when we moved away, but relationships are a two-way street. Who wants to be in a relationship where the other person makes no effort? It just won’t work. So I gave up and it hurt like hell. Now I don’t like to just roll over and give up on anything, but what are my options? Do I swallow my resentment and try again? What if he rejects me all over? How do other families deal with this?
How do I explain to my kids that they should always be there for one another—that the bond between siblings is a thing to be treasured and defended—when my sibling clearly demonstrates to them that, even within their own family, there are those who find that bond to be an incredibly easy thing to dismiss?
As I said, I anticipated that, when we had kids, our relationships with our friends might change, but I never expected it to happen with family. I thought that having your own family—your own spouse, your own kids—would only deepen the bond you had with the family you grew up with. So why does having kids sometimes cause the ones closest to us to walk away?

This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project January 16th, 2013. Here is the original link to the article.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The LAST Snowman Blog Tour

I am pretty excited to be a part of JC Little's The LAST Snowman Blog Tour. She is an amazing artist and author.  You can find more of her work as The Animated Woman or on Twitter as @littleanimation. 

The book is a very cute story about her daughter's adventure while building a snowman. What I loved most about it was that her daughter, at age fourteen, still exhibits the playfulness of a child when at her age that might be in question. As a stay at home dad, that playfulness is important to maintain. Did JC's daughter continue on? If you want to find out what happens you can purchase the book either on Amazon for Kindle HERE or on Createspace if you want the paperback.  At $3 for the Kindle version, you really can't find a book this great at that price anywhere. 

Or better yet, you can enter my giveaway down below and win yourself a copy and some swag to go with it.  That is of course after you read my story about my own daughter and her snowman building. 

This winter has been brutal to say the least. My family in Chicago have had to deal with Chiberia with little to no end of winter in sight. Philly has been inundated with snowfalls that far exceed last year and dealing with the aftermath, namely the excessive snow days and the power outages, my kids have always found a way to make the polar vortex interesting.

Kids don't care that our cars are buried under inches of snow or that their dad gets pumped about a snowblown driveway where you can see pavement again.  My kids and I played outside in the snow, my six year old daughter learning a valuable lesson about her limitations in the process.

My daughter Sarah was determined to build a snowman. Minutes into pushing her snowball across the ground, she said she couldn't do it. I said "Honey, you can do it if you put your mind to it. Don't give up and you will be surprised what you can accomplish" I said.

I watched her push this enormous ball of snow across the lawn laboring with every inch, watching her eyes narrow in determination while she focused her energy into churning this giant ball to the center of our lawn. She exclaimed "Daddy! Look what I made! I did it by myself!"

I was so proud, "If you put your mind to something and you don't give up, you can achieve anything" I said, "Good for you for not giving up."

Moments later she added another piece and I turned to look at what she had made. She fashioned her snowman base into a "snow couch" and the lump of snow off to the left directly across from her is a "snow TV". "Not as big as your TV Daddy, but the picture is kind of fuzzy!"

So, if you have snow or want to make some lasting memories with a snowman of your own, or want to read an awesome book about a snowman, check out The Last Snowman by JC Little.

WAIT! Didn't you say something about a GIVEAWAY? 

       1 paperback copy of The LAST Snowman

1 Mug from her Zazzle shop featuring an image from the book, perfect for after snowman hot chocolate

1 Swag Bag of Boiron products to deal with the lingering effects of winter cold and flu season. Boiron specializes in homeopathic medicines for the whole family.

Exclusive products from Dot & Lil including Shea Rescue Butter for Lips and Nails, a specially designed soap made just for the blog tour, which is a limited edition "Hot Chocolate Swirl" soap and a Mint Shaving Soap

FTC Disclaimer: I was given a copy of the book to review and participate in this blog tour of The LAST Snowman by JC Little. All opinions expressed are my own here at DadNCharge.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Tears and Cheers: What Dad 2.0 Meant To Me

You know that feeling when you really belong to something? That sense of camaraderie? It's knowing that your teammates have got your back and the sensation of you, as an individual being a part of something bigger than yourself? I can honestly say that I've felt that many times in my life.

I found that part of me first in art. While always being tall meant that I stood out, it didn't necessarily mean that I was ready to stand out. When I could express myself through my art and people would marvel at the things I could do, it just made me feel amazing.

It then happened with teaching, though it was ironic that before I became a teacher I was terrified of public speaking. Teaching kids just gave me the world's greatest feeling. To see a student blossom before my eyes, to witness those "a ha!" moments, or to watch a kid they said never would graduate because of where he was from, walk across a stage while his family gave him a standing ovation. It was great to be a part of that.

Then, I felt this connectedness as a stay at home dad. Feeling like I was meant to stay home, that the relationships I am building with my kids now will last throughout their lives. That I get that chance, thanks to my wife, has left me feeling lucky to have shared every moment even if I can't have an uninterrupted bathroom moment. Finding those other dads who are just like me through the National At Home Dad Network while I frantically searched the internet my first year while staying at home has been a big part of that. I am proud to be a part of them.

Finally, and most recently, attending the Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans with Dad Bloggers from around the world that have established friendships with. Blogging has been a way to share my voice with the world and to share the way I see it. It has become a way to empower other fathers who are searching for answers about whether they are doing it right and to open up conversations about tough issues that we all face as parents. It has been a way to share my successes and failures, our laughter, and sometimes even sadness.  I am proud that they are a part of me.

I'm a bit of an anomaly. I'm 6'7", bald, and I look like The Transporter but I'm just a big softie. I pretty much cry at any emotional commercial, anything that involves kids usually because I can see my kids or myself or my family in those moments. I have cried at parent-teacher conferences, school plays, and baseball games though I know there is no crying that should be happening there.

When I went to Dad 2.0 I felt like I was headed to a family reunion. Getting to know various dad bloggers over the past year has been amazing. But until I stepped off the plane and actually met with them face to face, I would be referring to them to my wife as "one of the dad bloggers". There is something about meeting in person that brings all those shared moments to the forefront. Brothers don't shake hands, brothers gotta hug. We did and that's probably why some of us are sick. Still, it feels good to know you have so many dads and moms in your corner.

When the whole group had gathered and the lights dimmed, I had goosebumps. The videos that lead opened the floodgates literally, and it just made me proud to be a dad who cares about how fathers are seen today.  Our common goal being to define how the roles of fathers in this world have changed and to get others to see it too.

You have all helped me in some way either as a dad, a blogger, an editor, a supporter, a champion of my work. You have been there for me when I fell and lifted me up when I needed to celebrate my victories. You have let me in and told me to sit down in your favorite chair and allowed me to talk for a bit. Let me tell you, it feels great sitting here with you.

Each of us is essential, a piece of something much bigger than ourselves. We are all cogs in the fabric of fatherhood, trying to make things click in this world. I think of us as a machine and sure, you can picture Voltron if it makes you feel better because how cool would that be? Dadtron.

Collectively, we are a machine doing work but not in that sense that we are Tin Men because we all have the hearts that go with it. Thank you for Dad 2.0.  I am proud to be a part of us.

Friday, February 7, 2014

How Do You Explain Football To A Kid?

Ever try and sit down with your kid and explain, really explain the game of football to them? It's exhausting. The other day, I tried to explain to my son just how you play the game of football.

You get four downs to go ten yards and if you don't get 10 yard in those four downs, you have to kick the ball to the other team.

"Why do they call it a down?"

I'm not sure, but once you get those ten yards, you get four more chances.

"What happens if you don't get 10 yards, do you give the ball to the other team?"

Well, you can either try on 4th down and if you don't make it, you give the team the ball or you can kick it to the other team instead which is called a punt.

"A punt? That's a funny word. Why do they call it a punt and not just a kick?

Good question. I wish there was a book that just demonstrated all of this. Well, there is and it is called Let's Play Football and they also have an app narrated by ESPN's Ron Jaworski and The Eagles' Merrill Reese.  How can this get any better? Did I mention that there is also a FREE app on iTunes?

Philly Dads Group had a chance to review this book recently and was offered a "PlayDate in a Box" from the makers of the book. We had a playdate with local area kids where we read the book together and did some football related games and crafts.  Afterwards, we took part in the greatest of American past time, snacking! Big shoutout to Snackiddy who provided some of our munchies.

My kids loved the book, mostly because the main teams in the book are the Lions and Bears and with a dad who is a huge Chicago Bears fan they instantly got behind the characters. We all loved the illustrations, and my three year old daughter enjoyed picking out which ones were bears and which ones were lions with every page turn.

The book included all the pertinent vocabulary that one needs to teach kids football and did so in a playful rhyming way that told a great story. We were hanging by the edge of our seats waiting to see what would happen and I highly suggest reading it to your own little football fans.

The story is told from training camp to the big game and includes a glossary at the end to review the vocabulary that goes along with the game.  I could see how if you introduced this to your kids early that they would understand the game better which is what author Jon Richter has set out to do.    From one Philadelphia area dad to another, thanks Jon for giving my kids this leg up on the game we love so much.

FTC Disclaimer: The opinions in this post are solely my own. I received a free copy of the book for and the "playdate in a box" in exchange for a review of the book.